“For something different to happen would have been a miracle and even so it is incredible,” summed up, already with undisguised fatigue, an opposition deputy who accompanied the Omnibus Law in each vote in the chamber, until the project finally foundered.
While the ruling party denounces extortion and betrayal to explain the parliamentary failure, in the rest of the benches – where some still wonder if the Government ever really wanted to approve the law or only looked for a scapegoat in Congress – they find other explanations, many of which they had been warning publicly for weeks: the substance, the content and the forms.
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After the approval, on Friday, of the “general” norm – which was nothing more than a shell without articles – this Tuesday the vote in particular quickly entered a string of consecutive defeats that surprised and irritated, due to libertarian passivity, even PRO legislators.
This Tuesday the vote in particular quickly entered a string of consecutive defeats. (Photo: Télam / Eliana Obregón)
6 articles were voted on: the Government achieved the declaration of emergency in six areas: economic, financial, security, tariffs, energy and administrative. But the “emergency” without the delegation of powers means little, and in subsequent votes those powers were quickly curtailed. “From delegated powers, to thin ones,” joked a radical deputy, with some malice.
The seventh article was that of privatizations. As it was written, most of the opposition blocs warned weeks ago, it was not going to prosper and it would have been a decisive defeat for the Government.
Deputies entered an intermission room for 15 minutes before the vote on the privatization chapter. (Photo: Télam)
It was not the libertarian bloc, but Miguel Pichetto, from Hacemos Coalión Federal, who proposed – after asking La Libertad Avanza if it intended to continue losing throughout the session – to move to a 15-minute intermission for the bloc leaders to meet. . In that meeting, in which national officials participated, the ruling party decided to return the project to commission, which is the same as saying that the treatment will start, if it starts again, “from scratch.”
During that 20-minute interval in which they left the premises, some reflections left by the deputies from the different blocks anticipated the failure of the project.
“They knew what was going to happen and they decided that it would happen anyway. They lost votes and continued voting happily, they are a stunned boxer,” said a non-K Peronist; “They thought they were negotiating with governors and it was closed, and they did not agree well with the governors, nor was it resolved with that”; warned a radical, along the same lines as a deputy from the Civic Coalition. “I can't explain it any other way: the radicals, the provincials and the pichettos screwed us,” said a PRO.
Once the session was adjourned, in Unión por la Patria, after having committed each intervention to hinder the debate, it celebrated the libertarian defeat as its own triumph and, among Peronist chants through the hallways and stairs of Congress, some of its deputies pointed out something true: The Government ended up making the decision that UxP requested on the first day of treatment in the facility last week: return the project to committee. There was surprise, despite everything, among PJ-K deputies, that the ruling party had lost votes with more than 150 votes against.
Possible reasons for a parliamentary defeat
Now, beyond the fact that the Government – from the president to his ministers and his parliamentary bosses – discursively took charge of reducing the parliamentary defeat to an alleged betrayal of the dialogueists, or to an excessive voracity of governors and the caste for privileges and resources , there are other readings in the rest of the blocks, including in the PRO (which supported everything in general and in particular).
La Libertad Avanza only has 38 members in a Chamber in which a quorum is achieved with 129. (Photo: NA – Juan Vargas).
To begin with, La Libertad Avanza only has 38 members in a Chamber in which the quorum is achieved with 129 and the main opposition bench, UxP, has a hundred deputies determined, as they demonstrated, to reject everything.
It is worth remembering, as they particularly remembered at the UCR this Tuesday night, how they got to the premises. The debate in committee ended with five opinions. The majority, of the ruling party, was only a majority because the dialogue opposition accompanied with more than 150 dissidents.
The approval of the law in general followed the logic of the opinion: the dialogue blocs accompanied, despite not agreeing with key points, simply to enable voting in particular. The decision to make an intermission, to suspend the debate for an entire weekend, was – pointed out in UCR, HCF, PRO and Federal Innovation – above all to allow a little more time to negotiate.
And yet, as this media reported on Tuesday morning, the session began without consensus on decisive articles and chapters such as: the delegation of powers, privatizations, PAIS tax, modifications to the Penal Code, external debt without parliamentary control, and reforms in Culture and Environment. The ruling party knew it.
The Government also underestimated the fragmentation of the blocks when negotiating. The deputies of the UCR and HCF were far from voting uniformly.
FILE PHOTO: Argentina’s President Javier Milei waves to supporters gathered outside Casa Rosada after his swearing-in ceremony, in Buenos Aires, Argentina December 10, 2023. REUTERS/Matias Baglietto/File PhotoPor: REUTERS
“Not only did they underestimate the degree of internal divisions that the blocs have, but they overestimated the weight of the governors in the traditional blocs thinking that it could be fixed only on that side, and at the same time they underestimated the weight of those governors, because the reality “It's just that they never finished agreeing,” a “dialoguist” deputy tested a hypothesis, who does not respond to provincial leaders.
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But, the opposition benches agreed that the main error was having sent from the beginning a project of the magnitude that the Executive sent, with the haste that it was sent and with such diverse topics, to finally end up withdrawing the fiscal chapter, which in all the blocs considered the key to the reform package.
It was, in fact, the lack of certainty in the fiscal chapter that largely ended up complicating the negotiation with provincial governors to deal with the rest of the articles that remained standing in the Omnibus Law.
The governors of Together for Change will accompany the Milei Omnibus Law (Photo: X jorgemacri).
Nor was it forgotten, among the dialogue blocks, the mistreatment, the criticism and even the public complaints that Javier Milei himself launched against deputies and governors, even before having the norm “in general” approved.
Ultimately, beyond the forced and unforced errors, the lack of parliamentary experience of a young force and the discursive intersections, the parliamentary failure, in a Congress in which La Libertad Avanza is a clear minority, can be explained in that the ruling party simply did not have the votes to approve the project it intended to approve.
Although the President and his officials tired of repeating that they would not give up key points, the Government gave up quite a bit. “To think that because they gave in on some things we were going to vote on everything else is naive,” they concluded in radicalism late into the night, when the Government had already begun to shoot against the “caste.”
“It is the discussion of the toga and the judges. We did everything so that they could have a law, not the law they wanted. It's not that they were doing us a favor, they have to gather the votes,” they also concluded in HCF.
The libertarian reform project now entered uncertain terrain. The initiative returns to committee, without certainty as to what, if any, the treatment will be, but above all in the worst possible climate to seek an agreement.